AYER -- The Ayer Police Department is accepting applications from residents interested in participating in the town's 15th citizens police academy.
The free two-month program, held from 6 to 9 p.m. every Wednesday beginning Oct. 1, educates people on a number of topics involved in police work, including motor-vehicle law, criminal law, domestic violence, defensive tactics and interrogation techniques.
The goal of the academy is to build bridges between the Police Department and the community, said Sgt. John MacDonald, director of the program.
A lot of times, when police get called to somebody's house, it isn't for something good, he said.
"We're usually showing up on somebody's worst day," he said. "This is a chance for us to get to meet people in a more positive atmosphere and just explain why and how we do certain things, and explain the law and procedure and why things happen a certain way."
Participants will get to see demonstrations of traffic stops and shoot a gun during a firearms demonstration on a range, MacDonald said. State police conduct a canine demonstration, and one night, police perform field sobriety tests on volunteer drinkers in front of the class.
Students will also ride along with a police officer.
"We give them a bullet-resistant vest and they get to ride in the front seat and patrol with an officer," MacDonald said. "So you get a chance to see what it's like from our perspective.
In the past, the program has included field trips to the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley and the Boylston Police Academy.
The previous academy sessions have been popular, MacDonald said, and have helped the police form lasting relationships with people in the community.
"We've had people who've been in some of the very earlier classes who now will go out of their way to smile and wave to us, or they remember our names and we remember them," he said. "The relationships are helpful."
Twenty-five spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but applicants will be screened in a selection process.
MacDonald said students must be at least 17 years old and cannot have been convicted of a felony within the last 10 years or a misdemeanor in the past five.
Applications are available at the police station, but anyone with questions can reach MacDonald at 978-772-8200 ext. 570 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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